State awards critical funding for school construction projects

California school districts walked away with just under $924 million in state funding Wednesday that will launch the construction of 377 campus projects within the next three months.

The State Allocation Board quickly approved the appropriation of the state matching funds for 154 districts, which first had to prove that their projects were shovel-ready" - meaning that construction could begin within 90 days of the monetary awards.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction and SAB member Tom Torlakson, who was not in attendance Wednesday, applauded the board's action to continue the state's school facilities funding program, created to fast-track school construction projects while at the same time stimulating the state's economy.

"Our schools and California's budget are in a state of financial emergency," Torlakson said in a statement issued following the board's action. "These funds will give districts some of the resources they need to construct or rebuild our schools, create jobs in the community to help the state's economic recovery, and provide students with more modern facilities that advance their academic achievement."

The funds awarded, about half of the total cost of the projects, were made available through the sale of $1.8 billion in general obligation bonds, authorized by Gov. Jerry Brown in October.

At that time, Brown awarded a $1 billion share of the proceeds to school construction projects, with the balance of the money going to state and local transportation programs.

Some 504 certified projects, submitted by 187 districts and totaling $1.34 billion, had been stalled on the Office of Public School Construction's "unfunded approvals" list awaiting the state's required matching contribution.

The projects range from new construction to modernization of existing structures and will, say school proponents, stimulate local economies by creating jobs and other benefits.

Most of the districts on the list not receiving funding Wednesday were simply unable to prove they could begin construction within 90 days, said OPSC staff, but they may re-apply for the program's next round of funding between Jan. 12 and Feb. 9. more